Grizzlies forward Desmond Bane collided with James’ right leg in the first half, causing James to tumble to the floor. The Lakers star remained there for several minutes as L.A. called timeout so the team’s medical staff could check on him.
For James, it was a scare to the same leg that suffered a high right ankle sprain last season when the Atlanta Hawks’ Solomon Hill crashed into his lower body while lunging for a steal. That injury caused him to miss 26 games and didn’t fully heal until months into the offseason.
“The first thing I was thinking to myself was, ‘Not again,'” James said afterward. “Because obviously it was almost similar but not the same kind of play. Guy falls into my leg and there’s nothing you can do about it and I couldn’t get my leg out of there in time.”
This time around, James not only stayed in the game, but ended up logging a game-high 40 minutes, finishing with 19 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks in the win.
The collision occurred when Dwight Howard tried to block Bane’s finger roll attempt with 6:27 remaining in the second quarter. The shot fell through the net and then Bane fell to the floor after bumping bodies with the Lakers center. James, with his eyes fixed on the rim as he tried to establish into rebounding position, never saw Bane hurtling toward his leg.
“Just wanted to take a moment on the floor just hopefully it wasn’t getting worse,” James said about the moments after the contact. “Had an opportunity just to tie my shoe again and see if I’m able to go, I was able to continue to go.”
The 19-year veteran said his leg felt “sore” after the game but planned to receive “around the clock” treatment heading into Tuesday’s road game against the San Antonio Spurs, which he plans to play in.
“Hopefully I’m ready to go,” James said.